Carlton Melton

Out To Sea

‘Peaking Duck’ is the perfect introduction to Californian rock monsters Carlton Melton’s fifth album, Out To Sea, for a number of reasons. The plodding drone, the vast cosmic caterwauls, the gnarled guitar wails – it is what has become the five-piece’s signature dish for eight years now. It would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, basking on the blasted plateau, eyelids at half mast as the gaze locked in on the pulsing psychedelics that swirled on the endless horizon. But the years have brought with it a refinement, an innate fusing of the minds, that has crystallised their cantankerous jams into an experience that surpasses expectations – a chrysalis of perpetual roiling noise that ebbs and flows like an organic beast, the end of which has one shedding their preconceptions and emerging from the journey refreshed, reborn.

There are a few tracks here that are blasts of intent. ‘Wheel & Deal’ flutters into life with a flurry of drum rolls before taking flight into a cacophony of guitar squalls, while ‘Amfmpm’ is all sparse yet barbed 70s rock swagger. ‘Perdiddle’ even creeps under the three-minute mark to deliver a saturnine wah-current groove that comes to an abrupt end. But Out To Sea is all about elongating the improvisational elements of psych music to more surreptitious outlier situations, whether it be the exploding cosmic flourishes of ‘Peaking Duck’ or the subterranean lurk of closer ‘Realms’. The road travelled in between winds in and out of the shadows of unexplored realms. ‘Diamond In The Rough’ is a slow, considered whisper, the bass adding a warm backbone to what is essentially a sonic bubbling current, all languorous and languid, a meditation of the Self that fits the literary touchstones of the album title. Yet the title track is the exact opposite, a raucous coalescing swirl that eschews dawning contemplation for dronal catharsis, a feedback-skewered march through the astral undergrowth. ‘Too Close To Home’ continues to build the spectral tensions imbued by its forebears, taking subtle nuances and space to hove deep into the subconscious.

It’s the two tracks that crack the ten minute mark that play the most with these temporal conventions within their drawn-out duration. ‘Similarities’ begins with a solitary guitar, spidering its way up and down a blank canvas, echoing, self-contained; before the slow beating of a tom drum slips artfully underneath, a nuanced layer that imperceptibly hints at the rumbling journey about to be embarked upon. The sonic field levels out into a prowled exploration, teasing patience and prolonging satisfaction until the final minute, where the rise in volume, bass and cymbals evoke a cathartic expulsion without ever really providing one.

That is left to ‘The Barrier’, the most ominous track here. Ten and a half minutes of the same distorted dronal riff, slight synthetic lines bleeding underneath, a militaristic drum march through the valley of doom rock, like Earth covering The Third Ear Band’s score of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth. The tempo is one that is insidious, inherently insistent, a persistent pulse in the temple, a rising pressure in the head, but one where you never want the pressure to be alleviated. The catharsis here isn’t in expulsion, but in embracing the tension, the pain, the knowledge that this is the abyss, and it’s everlasting.

Out To Sea hasn’t rewritten any rule books, nor has it needed to. What it, and Carlton Melton, do best is find the well-worn grooves of improve psych rock and carve their calligraphic initials into the paths, altering the slipstreams and making them their own.

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